Despite positive increases in the percentages of female students enrolled in business school programs, few schools have reached the mark of equality where 50% of class seats are taken by women, according to The Financial Times 2017 Global MBA Ranking.
Being part of an underrepresented minority requires working harder to have a powerful voice in business. Although every woman’s business school experience is different, preparing for the corporate world can help women succeed academically and professionally. Here’s what you need to know to excel in the classroom and beyond.
Never stop networking.
Business school is about more than learning the knowledge and skills you’ll need to succeed in your field—it’s also a key opportunity to network. Research shows that people who build strong networks have higher salaries and earn more promotions throughout their careers. Additionally, people who network effectively tend to score higher performance ratings, as they gather more career insights from others.
Most business school students know how important it is to network with alumni. However, it’s also important to build strong relationships with your classmates. It might seem counterintuitive, but opening up about hobbies and interests outside of business school can help you foster even stronger relationships—and it can even give you a reason to stay in touch outside of the classroom.
As you build relationships with your future colleagues, you’ll also want to devote time to connect with your professors. If you’re struggling to figure out which networking strategy is right for you, your professors will have insight and experience to help you make informed, strategic decisions about where to put your limited time and energy.
Dress for success.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and that first chance typically only lasts a few seconds. According to a recent survey of over 2,000 managers, 33% of managers knew whether or not they would hire a job applicant within the first 90 seconds of meeting them. In other words, you might have the best resume and a great attitude, but if you show up to a job interview in jeans and a t-shirt, you’ll probably have a hard time making a positive first impression.
While most people have a general idea of how to dress for a job interview, even minor mistakes can make a significant difference in whether or not you score the job, according to the career experts at Forbes. To successfully dress the part, it’s essential to wear clothing that fits properly and that you feel comfortable and confident in.
Whether you’re shopping for the classroom or your internship, investing in entire outfits instead of random separates will make getting dressed much easier in the morning. For example, if you’re shopping for petite jackets or blazers, consider investing in matching skirts and blouses to complete the look and convey a sense of professionalism.
Explore your options.
An MBA is a marketable degree, as it shows that someone has the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage multiple departments within a business. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not business school is right for you, keep in mind that certain types of MBAs can open the door to more opportunities, such as degrees with specializations in high-demand fields like tech.
If you’re focused on career advancement, consider focusing on graduate schools that are actively recruiting female candidates. Earning your graduate-level business degree while surrounded by a network of high-achieving women can motivate you to succeed and foster shared connections. If you’re not sure how to get started, search for cues of support through graduate degree program websites, emails, and social media posts that highlight the achievements of female students, faculty members, and alumni.
Women in business face unique challenges distinct from their male counterparts. Ultimately, striving to make a strong first impression, networking effectively, and exploring your career opportunities can help you excel in your field.